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Ralt RA 5 Plank bender

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Hi all!


I spent the day with my Grandfather today. He's a master ship builder with about 40 years of experience. He's 94 now and passing the craft onto me.


He showed me a too called a Ralt RA5 plank bender. He claims it's the best and really the only option as far as plank shaping goes. However, i've done some serious searching and all I can turn up are ended auctions on Ebay. it would appear that they're not manufactured anymore. Does anyone have any information for me, or even one I can buy?


Thanks in advance.


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I have one of those & it is great for plank bending. It was made by Aeropiccola,which is no longer in business. I wouldn`t give mine up for anything. As far as getting one,keep searching ebay or maybe a site called Craigslist. It`s a great tool - I sometimes wonder why no one has continued to make one like it. Maybe the patent for the design is still in effect.



current build - HMS Vanguard - Model Shipways


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I bought an Aeropiccola plank bender about 35 years ago. Have built 10 ship's with it and it is still going strong. I usually clamp it in a vice when bending planks over it. While the one shown in the link below has a different shaped head and no spring loaded roller (as the Ralt RA5 has) I think it would still work quite well if held in a vice and presoaked planks were bent over it.





Current Build: - OcCre Shackleton’s Endurance. 


Completed Ship Builds:

                                     Caldercraft - HM Bark Endeavour. (in Gallery)

                                    Caldercraft  - HMAV Bounty (in Gallery)

                                     Caldercraft - HM Brig Supply (In Gallery)

                                     Aeropiccola - Golden Hind

                                                        - Constitution

                                     Clipper Seawitch (maker unknown - too long ago to remember!)

                                     Corel - Victory

                                     Modeller's Shipyard - A Schooner of Port Jackson - In Gallery

                                                                      - Brig `Perseverance' - In Gallery

                                                                      - Cutter `Mermaid'- In Gallery

                                                                      - Sirius Longboat (bashed) - In Gallery

                                                                      - Sloop Norfolk - In Gallery

                                      Completed Cannon:   - French 18th Century Naval Cannon

                                                                      - Napoleonic 12 pound field piece

                                                                      - English 18th Century Carronade

                                       Non Ship Builds - Sopwith Camel - Artesania Latina

                                                                   - Fokker DR1 - Artesania Latina


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Thanks guys. That second one posted is fairly common. It's probably what i'll end up with, but i'm going to keep looking of the RA.

I am familiar with Cragslist, but i'll only purchase locally with that site. Though, it's worth a shot.


Thanks...If anyone see's this and is willing to part with their RA, send me a PM.





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  • 7 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Seems like you have to do some navigation on the site to get to plank bending system so here is the screenshot for it:


Wood Bending System 3000

Some thoughts about bending wood


    BIEGE.JPGThe most common task associated with the construction of historical ship models is the bending and forming of wood. Timber used for practically every part of a model hull must be worked to the shape required. More than 30 years ago, when my interest in historical model ship building started, I searched the related literature for everything I could find on how to bend wood. I tried every procedure suggested. But nothing seemed really practical. Some methods suggested "cooking" wood strips as a prelude to bending. Ridiculous! Equally silly - silly, that is, to me - were recommendations to use various mechanical devices to "torture" wood into shape. Crunching wood into shape did not seem to be the answer, I thought. Even raw steam, the popular method, was less than desirable for model building. To bend wood effectively, it's first necessary to understand its composition. It has, of course, a cellular structure. Naturally, each wood type is slightly different, as we would expect. But all woods contain elongated cells and a membrane around each cell that absorbs, retains, or releases moisture. Generally, wood cells absorb water through the membrane at rates about five times greater than the rates at which they release water. Because it's so important to the structure of wood, cell membrane should NEVER be destroyed. When the membrane of a wood cell is destroyed, it's only a matter of time before structural problems arise. Sealing the surfaces of cellular damaged wood with various types of finishes merely delays the outcome of cellular destruction. I use the word "destruction" because that's what happens. When wood cells are cooked, moisture within "explodes," bursting moisture*retaining membrane. Although invisible, serious structural damage does indeed occur. It remains a mystery to me where the idea of boiling wood for model building ever came from. It's certainly not found in the classical ship building literature. Shipwrights of old formed wood for their vessels in a manner quite different from "cooking." Large planks were steamed. Thinner planks were first wetted out. Then, they were weighted to shape. And, finally, a fire was lit under the wood as it was kept wet with mops and brushes until the heat from the fire and the pressure from the weight gradually bent the wood to the desired shape. No cooking. No crunching. Based on my thinking and experimenting, I developed the wood bending system that I now use in my work. The primary component is a 20-30 watt soldering iron in which I mount a forming/bending tip (#3003) for thin timber or, for thicker timber, a plank bender (#3006).The system is extremely simple. It's designed for hour-after-hour of continuous use. Wood to be bent is first soaked in cold water. One to 15 minutes is enough, depending on the type of wood. The wood must be thoroughly wet - but not saturated. It must not, that is, be sopping wet. After removal from the soak dish, after draining or "resting" for a few minutes, the wood is ready for bending or forming. For thin timber, using the forming/bending tip(#3003), heat and pressure are applied with the iron held in one hand while the other hand is used to bend and hold the wood to the exact shape required. The heat and pressure of the iron "set" the wood. Most important of all, the newly acquired shape of the wood will be retained after the heat and pressure are removed. For heavier timber, the plank bender (#3006) is used. The iron iron fitted with the plank bender is held in one hand. The wet plank is inserted into the holder
on the bender with the other hand. Then the plank is gently bent down to the desired shape. Again, the heat and pressure "set" the wood to desired shape. And it remains. Using the forming/bending tip (#3003), it's even possible to bend thin wood "the wrong way." (See photo) Handrails, for example, can be formed to the exact shape required. The wood can be bent
directly on a tracing of the rail shape. For modelers interested in this technique, I suggest practicing on some scrap wood. Wet and bend wood of all types and dimensions. After just a little experimenting, most model builders are pleasantly surprised at how simple*and useful!*this wood bending technique really is. 

The wood bending/forming system consists of a soldering iron (#3001), the forming/bending tip, and the plank bending tip.
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  • 1 year later...

So with a heavy heart and a bitter sweet announcement I can share that I came into possession of my own Aeropiccola Ralt 5A. My Grampa passed away in April at 93. He left me all his boat building tools and stock material. It's an honor to have it. I'd trade the tools for his companionship again and his knowledge. 


I'll post some pictures later. 

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